There are things that work and many more that don't. Let's discuss what we've experienced . . . not our opinions . . . but actually what our days and nights as marketers, business leaders, parents, people are teaching us. Please give us a hand. Tell us about your experience with this stuff.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Which mistake are you more comfortable with?

We often have great leadership and management choices these days. We research the options, calculate the potential returns, try to understand the downstream implications to each decision, identify the risks associated with each and then . . . we have to decide:

What's the best decision to make?

Here's a little tool that often works for me.

While I'm looking at what's most likely to succeed or sometimes even which option is more likely to get executed, I find that no real certainty emerges. In many of these day-to-day decisions I ask the following question:

If both of these are a mistake, which mistake am I more comfortable with?

In other words, and not to be pessimistic, but if this turns into a failure or a mistake, which would I be most comfortable with?

For me, if I'm going to lose in a situation, I would like to do it on my own terms. Sometimes that's about minimizing human damage, sometimes its about cultural pain and sometimes its about just wanting to aim high. But in any case, if there is a problem I know I have to stand up and take whatever fallout there may be (most times the winners have plenty of people with deserved credit; but the buck stops with me on the losers).

So given that I'm playing for big wins knowing sometimes the alternative will happen and I'll need to shine the light directly on myself, then I'll choose the option which I will feel best about failing at.

Sure I probably need more therapy and know that this isn't for all decisions, but sometimes the math dictates that the potential realities of a decision must be faced before the eventual outcome. When I choose using this basis, I find that I can be more aggressive, I am more at peace and I am much less concerned about things not working out.

There are few people, managers or otherwise, who are more impactful on their situations, than those people who are not afraid to fail. This may help with that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Waste Your Sophistication

What is it that you truly understand? What core decisions about your business or your life have you made? Can you describe to an outsider what your business or department is all about (and I hope you are happy with that)?

I ask these questions because if you have clear answers to these questions, then the rest of your decisions should be much simpler. Note: I'm not saying without pain, but simpler.

The British have a saying that goes something like, 'he was too smart by half'. Its what I'm getting at.

For many of us, we've made decisions, we've learned great lessons; the rest is persistance and perseverance. Those are the traits that make all the difference once the direction is set.

And sophistication? That ability to see the nuance and understand the implication and develop the complexity? Its great to use a mentor/coach or your own experience to work through the thought, plan or idea. But once it's been done, get on with it. Execute and learn.

I can remember a proposal I worked on for a Big 4 consulting group. We started with a core team and put the proposal together. Then the 'powers that be' brought in more experts to review and contribute . . .they did this over and over again for a two week period. Over that period we changed/evolved the proposal 3 times a day. By the end of the process, we had over 30 different versions (I remember putting in my hours for those two weeks: 205 hours.) At the end of the iteration hell, on my own, I looked at the versions from the beginning to the end and you know what? I suspect you guessed it.

The last version was uncannily similar to the very first version. And you could track the evolution from human to simian to ape to simian and back to human. Scary.

So the arithmetic here comes down to this: use your sophistication to set your direction and then move as aggressively as you can. Don't suffer sophisticates or doubters lightly. And learn as you go. You'll run rings around the competition and your team will have a lot of fun.